Just when it seemed all had been lost – after nearly five years of negotiations and coming so close in an Aug. 27 meeting – the Bayonne Board of Education and Bayonne Teachers Association came to an agreement on a $9.2 million, five-year contract for teachers on Tuesday, Sept. 2.
Time seemed to stand still at 5:31 p.m., when BTA President Alan D’Angelo announced to about 100 teachers in the Dorothy E. Harrington City Council Chambers that the union and board had come to terms.
“The mayor will have something to say to you; it seems like we’ve reached an agreement,” he said, moments before Mayor James Davis entered the room.
“This was a long process for the last couple of weeks, a process that should end today,” said Davis, who personally became involved in the negotiations toward the end.
The two sides agreed that the deal was not what each had sought, but ultimately it was one they could shake hands on.
“Teachers didn’t get everything they wanted, and the board didn’t get everything they wanted,”
said Bayonne Board of Education President William Lawson.
Lawson credited the work of board member and negotiator Michael Masone in helping to forge the agreement.
The teachers had come to City Hall to meet with the mayor to find out where the negotiations stood. Virtually none of them had any idea that the evening would culminate with news of the contract settlement, though at least one suspected.
Carole Cupo, a physical education teacher at Midtown Community School and a union representative, said she had good vibes after she arrived.
“I saw Alan disappear, and then saw Lawson in the hallway,” she said. “We knew it was close. It was closer in this last half week than it’s ever been.”
D’Angelo must still bring the deal to his 800 members for discussion and then a vote, expected to take a week and possibly longer.
The deal was struck at about 4 p.m., a source close to the negotiations said, following back-and-forth calls over the holiday weekend.
On Wednesday, Aug. 27 it looked like contract talks had broken down, following negotiations that day and on Aug. 25.
All seemed lost
As the Labor Day weekend began, it seemed almost a certainty that the contract impasse would enter its fifth year when public school students returned to class on Sept. 3.
All that was separating the two sides on Thursday and Friday of last week was a gap of $425,000. Once that deficit was overcome, the deal was sealed.
The negotiations had seemed to be moving forward earlier last month after a positive Aug. 1 session, and the parties had hoped to pick up where they had left off with the meetings on Aug. 25 and 27.
Last week Davis had been adamant that D’Angelo was the roadblock to completing a deal, but on Tuesday all involved were smiling and speaking of success.
D’Angelo did not talk specifics with the teachers gathered at the impromptu meeting, but said details would be forthcoming.
It was revealed, however, that there would four step changes for teachers in the five-year deal, following a step “freeze’ for the 2010 to 2011 school year, where no teacher would progress.
A source close to the negotiations said that teachers will receive retroactive checks for the past years of the contract, some for as much as $30,000.
Upon becoming mayor, Davis had pledged to end the stalemate by the start of the school year.